You've seen one village, you've seen them all. Right? <Insert wrong answer buzzer> No!! They may have similar characteristics and features, but they all have a unique story of their own.
Pitigliano, famously referred to as one of the Tufa Towns because it was built upon tufa (solidified lava formed from ancient volcanic activity), particularly defies the "its-just-another-village" line of thinking. This Etruscan town is extra special for two reasons: one being it's importance in Jewish history, and two being the intricate cave network beneath the town.
Jews settled in Pitigliano in the 16th century when the town became a haven for those escaping the Catholic Church's Counterreformation persecution. As the community grew, a synagogue was built in 1598. Business flourished with carpenters, weavers, shoemakers and bookbinders. When the Medici family came into rule, privileges were revoked and the Jews were forced into a small ghetto located around the synagogue. They could no longer live as they pleased or practice any trade.
By 1931, the Jewish population had declined to around 70. When the Nazis came through, those who remained hid in the surrounding hills and only approximately 30 returned to Pitigliano after the war. Today, it has been recorded that only 3 members of the Jewish community live in Pitigliano.
Unique to the tufa towns, is Le Vie Cave, a network of "hidden roads" or caves carved out by the Etruscans linking them to the Etruscan necropolis. Some of these caves are up to a mile long and are open to the sky above while other parts are completely enclosed. A hike through the caves around Pitigliano are a must--stop by the tourist information office located in the main piazza just through the arched entrance into town for free information and maps.
My favorite part? Well, just wandering the streets and alleys finding beauty and charm at every turn!
Pitigliano is between Rome and Florence. A car is recommended as there is no train station in town, and most find the buses difficult to navigate.
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